THREE-YEAR-OLD Jaquinn Brewton spent his last months on earth in hell.
His godmother burned his bottom with a blowtorch as punishment for potty-training fails. She whipped him so often that a neighbor asked their landlord to intervene. She burned his feet so badly that he couldn't walk or wear shoes. She raked her hair pick down his arms and otherwise abused him so severely that "chunks of his skin were just missing, unaccounted for," Assistant District Attorney Bridget Kirn said yesterday in court.
Turning toward Nadera Batson, Jaquinn's convicted killer, Common Pleas Judge Barbara A. McDermott asked the West Philadelphia woman if she had any words before she would be sentenced.
But if anyone expected an apology, they left court disappointed.
"I'm not the best person in the world," said Batson, 24, who has insisted since Jaquinn's July 2011 death that his injuries resulted from a fall down steps, an accidental scalding in tub water and other unintentional mishaps. "[But] I truly loved him, too. He was my godson. I took care of him. I just wish he was here."
McDermott didn't buy it. The judge sentenced Batson to 28 1/2 to 57 years in prison for third-degree murder and related offenses. The stiff sentence - less than the maximum 92 years Batson faced - prompted loud sobs from her relatives and quiet tears from Batson.
"This is the third-worst [case of child abuse] I've ever seen in almost 30 years," McDermott said. "One incident, it's an accident. But the blowtorch to a child's buttocks? The burns on his feet? His body, clearly beyond any doubt, showed this was a pattern of abuse. . . . You had several months at any point to stop and you didn't."
Jaquinn's mother, Ashley Brewton, had asked Batson, a friend of hers, to care for her speech-impaired son in early 2011 because Brewton was homeless. Batson's live-in boyfriend, Marcus King, 25, who earlier pleaded guilty to abuse-related charges, testified that although he rarely beat Jaquinn, Batson did so just about every day during the three months the boy lived with them.
Emergency workers called to help the unconscious boy in late June cried upon seeing his injuries, according to court testimony. Jaquinn died after lingering in the hospital for two weeks, never regaining consciousness. His official cause of death was listed as blunt-force trauma to his abdomen.
"He suffered those last few months in pain that was . . . exquisite, pain that would cause someone to vomit, pain that would require morphine," Kirn said. "And he endured it without so much as a Tylenol."
Defense attorney Lee Mandell said he would appeal Batson's conviction and challenge the sentence.
Brewton remembered her son yesterday as a toddler who loved being rocked to sleep, playing with his cousins, eating and trying on people's hats.
"A 3-year-old child didn't deserve this," Brewton said in a statement Kirn read in court. "My son couldn't defend himself. Mommy loves you. Mommy misses you."